Boris Johnson's 'only chance' to secure trade partnership with US exposed

Prime Minister Boris Johnson put an agreement with the US at the heart of his plans to revive the UK after Brexit. However, Britain’s hopes of securing a trade deal have recently been dashed following a warning from Joe Biden, the President-elect, that Washington will not sign anything with anyone until the US has sorted out its competitiveness. The UK had been closing in on a trade deal with ’s administration but Mr Biden said in a New York Times interview that his priorities will be to improve investment in US manufacturing and the protection of American workers.

He said: “I’m not going to enter any new trade agreement with anybody until we have made major investments here at home and in our workers and in education.”

In an exclusive interview with, though, Alan Winters, director of the Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex, revealed how the US and Britain could still enter a trade partnership in the near future.

Mr Winters argued both the US and UK could join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

The CPTPP is a high-quality free trade agreement which binds together Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Mexico, Malaysia, Peru, Chile and Brunei.

It covers nearly 14 percent of the global economy and it was the centrepiece of President Barack Obama’s strategic pivot to Asia.

Before President Trump withdrew the United States in 2017 – on his third day in office – the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was set to become the world’s largest free trade deal, covering 40 percent of the global economy.

Mr Trump suggested in early 2018 that he would be willing to reenter TPP discussions under certain conditions, but he quickly backtracked.

Professor Winters said: “The CPTPP is the best chance we have got to find an agreement with the US quickly.

“It obviously depends on the Americans deciding whether they want to go back into the CPTPP but Biden seems well disposed to.

“The question is ‘is he willing to pick it up as it were with almost no changes?’

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“Because if he doesn’t, the other members might be rather resistant.”

Professor Winters added: “But it is definitely the only chance we have got.

“If Biden accepts it as it is, sure as anything we will be on the phone a second after saying ‘us, too’.”

Commenting on why he thought it was the only chance, Professor Winters said: “”Americans want things out of the deal that are pretty unpalatable in the UK, such as chlorinated chicken and access to a pharmaceutical market at high prices.

“Basically all things that the UK Government has already said it cannot give.”

This summer, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss announced Britain would press ahead with a bid to join the major trading bloc.

Ms Truss said the CPTPP was the “next logical step” for post-Brexit Britain.

In another interview with, Australian Liberal Party Senator Eric Abetz said about the prospect of Britain joining: “I couldn’t see a reason why Britain shouldn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t be part of it.

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“Let’s hope they get excited by that prospect.

“It would be a real enhancement for the UK and for all the other members of the partnership.”

When asked whether Britain’s entry might make it easier for a future US administration to come back to the partnership, Mr Abetz said: “That is a possibility.

“They seem to have issues with major trade agreements, they want to maintain their flexibility and independence.

“But the more we can engage the UK in world affairs, as a separate entity, the better it will be for everyone.”

Following an agreement signed between the UK and Mexico on Tuesday, Liz Truss said it was the “seventh trade deal we’ve secured with a member of CPTPP”.

She added: “So, it’s another really important stepping stone toward the UK joining CPTPP, and I look forward to making our application to do just that early next year”.

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